Students need to be doing our part to make APSU a safe place for victims, especially when they have risked being vulnerable by sharing their story.
After the two incidents of alleged assault – one account of assault and one of sexual battery – at APSU in recent weeks, one on March 31, one on April 5, the topic of sexual assault is hitting a little closer to home.
“I don’t understand why people [are] walking out at night by themselves,” said Raschard Taylor, a junior computer science major. “[Assault] can happen any time, any day. Even if it’s daytime, someone can still slap you on the butt or harass you.”
Junior health and human performance Mackenzie Spivey said events like these “make you paranoid as a college girl.”
Even so, student response – especially on social media – has been less than understanding, and many reactions from the student body are demeaning and disgusting.
Student Kyrie Servin tweeted, “Bruh she prolly had just tweeted ‘I just want my booty rubbed’ smh,” and another student with Twitter handle “OG Jerr” said “did y’all see the alert about a girl reported getting slapped on the booty.”
The National Criminal Justice Reference Service reports that at least 20 percent of women and 6 percent of men will be sexually assaulted in just a four year period: while they attend college.
Victims should be supported, not mocked.
It’s no wonder that 90 percent of these attacks go unreported, according to NCJRS; girls on campus are seeing their peers’ responses to these attacks.
“I’ve definitely seen some [negative reactions] on Yik Yak and on Twitter,” said junior social work major Cheryl Biggs. “I feel like people don’t take it seriously. There are so many girls on our campus who are affected by sexual assault every single day, so the fact that people who aren’t taking it seriously is only a slap in the face […] it’s ridiculous to see some people making a joke about it or saying that it’s her fault.”
Survivors of sexual assault tend to blame themselves for the battery, and negative reactions from others (especially when those reactions explicitly blame the victim) only reinforce those feelings.
Self-blame “may be fed by the reactions of others and the media in analyses of the event,” according to John Harvey in “Coping with Sexual Assault.”
Michael Kasitz, Chief of APSU Police, said that sexual assault is “absolutely” underreported.
As long as survivors are met with these reactions, they will continue to avoid reporting incidents of assault.
Students claim that the wording of the most recent alert text was inappropriate, or even funny.
The text read: “APSU ALERT: Female reported unknown male slapped her on buttocks near library at 10:30 pm. Susp: Black male, 5’0”, 180lbs, gray jacket, red sweat pants.”
When asked about the wording of the text, Chief Kasitz said, “The text was factual. It is a shame that people aren’t taking this seriously, because it is a serious offense.”
The reactions from students reflect the cultural conditioning to take sexual battery lightly.
The tendency to minimize sexual assault and “victim-blame,” or the perpetuation that victims’ actions are what led to their attack.
The issue at hand is much less about the anatomically correct term for where the assailant touched the victim or how he touched her, and more about how he took away her power to control what happened to her body.
APSU Police listed the most recent event as sexual battery, defined by TCA 39-13-505 as: “Unlawful sexual contact with the victim by the defendant […] accompanied by any of the following circumstances: force or coercion is used to accomplish the act; the sexual contact is accomplished without the consent of the victim and the defendant knows or has reason to know at the time of the contact that the victim did not consent […] Sexual battery is a Class E felony.”
Students should not be trivializing this attack just because “it isn’t rape.”
There are a range of sexual offenses, but unwanted contact is obviously on the spectrum.
Minimizing the occurrence “because it’s not rape” further perpetuates the idea that a man can help himself to a woman’s body on a whim, based on objectification and consumerism.
“I feel like a lot of people are minimizing it, as if it’s something that’s not important, when actually it’s a crime,” said junior business major Halston Matheny. “They’re making it not an issue and blaming her, saying it’s her fault in some way, or saying that what he did was completely innocent and shouldn’t even be punished […] this is an issue of people, especially women, not having the right to control their own ‘bubble,’ and it comes down to human rights.”
Two crimes were allegedly committed on our campus, by the same male according to the campus alert.
These crimes must be taken seriously, and the victims must be protected, not minimized and mocked.
The victims are somewhere on campus: they may be one of the girls in your class, in your dorm, ordering a drink in front of you at Starbucks.
They are the girls scrolling through their Twitter or Yik Yak feed, seeing the cruel and accusatory responses of fellow students.
These girls were already attacked once, and now have to relive that event and develop even more shame and self-blame every time they hear derisive laughter when the story is brought up.
Stop blaming, stop laughing and start listening.